2:21 PM

Jed Henry's Internship at Sony

Officially I guess it could be said I was an intern for Sony Animation. However, other than the paperwork it took to get me there, and the HR people who kindly oversaw my stay, my internship wasn't anything like the Pixar, Dreamworks, and Disney internships. I was the very first art/visual development intern Sony Animation had ever had (which isn't saying too much, since they've only been around for 2 films, Open Season and Surf's Up.)

"That said, the only thing that really got me in was the private interest of a few of the artists at Sony, mostly Marcelo Vignali. About one year ago, I decided to email Seth Hippen (BYU Animation alumnus who was at Sony at the time) and asked if he knew about internships at Sony. Seth was in Sketchclub with Marcelo (a weekly Friday lunch sketch session that Sony employees do) so one Friday he asked Marcelo about it.

"Marcelo liked my work, particularly the image I pasted below. He said 'It shows that you're an idea guy. You took a familiar theme a griffin, and put a cut little house cat twist to it.'

"'Oh.' I said. I had no idea this had been the drawing he liked. But hey, I'll take what I can get, right?

"Now I'll just cut to the chase and tell you what happened during my internship.

"About a week into the thing, I was bored as heck. Marcelo was on vacation, and none of the other artists knew what to do with me. So I just walked around and annoyed everybody. Then Richie Chavez, THE big guy in the studio, told me politely to find SOMETHING to do, and leave his artists alone. I graciously apologized. Oh, and I got busted for walking around barefoot.

"When Marcelo got back, he assigned me to work on character designs for Hotel Transylvania (don't worry, it's already been announced) which was having some story problems, and was currently in the rewrite phase. This gave me a chance to play with the story as well as the designs.

"At first I just started pushing shapes around, trying to make a visually appealing character. This alarmed Marcelo. It looked like he regretted bringing me out for a second, before he regained composure and said 'first you gotta think character, character, character, and then design' (loose quote). He had me write whole scripts for how these characters would interact, who they were, what their hopes and fears and desires were, etc. That took about 2-3 weeks!
"After that, I had a really clear picture in my head of what shapes and designs would portray the characters' personalities. I drew up some designs and presented them to all the big dogs at the studio: Richie Chavez, Marcleo Vignali, Sylvain Deboissey, Armand Serrano, Marcos Mateu, Joty Lang, Paul Lesaine. They said 'Good job, you nailed these two characters, and the third one stinks.' Then Marcelo told me, 'Jed, you're our peer. You belong here with us.' I wept. Not really.
"Sony has made me absolutely no offers whatsoever. More than anything, I got in contact with some great people.

"So here's what I learned in a nutshell:

"When you design ANYTHING, THINK FIRST!!!! Think about character. Think about story. Think about what you can do visually to tell a deep and real story about real people (or animals, or cars, or toasters etc).

"Let the pencil be your guide. While you're thinking, be drawing. You will go through about a hundred drawings before you finally get to THE design. It might be the 100th drawing you do, or you might discover the first drawing nailed it. But until you hammer out about a good number (maybe not 100. Maybe...15-30) you'll never know what might have come off your pencil. Don't be afraid to throw the bad ideas out. They might be pretty drawings, but are they good ideas?
"Marcelo told me, 'If you wanna be an artist, you gotta be unreasonable.' I'll explain what he meant. Life comes with it's own hierarchal list of demands. According to Marcelo (and I agree) these demands are, in order of importance:
  • Relationship with God
  • Family
  • Art
"'There you have it. So with spirituality and family coming before art, you gotta be unreasonable to make time for the art. Saturday morning, you wanna sleep in. Tough. Get up and go paint, or draw, or sculpt. You think you're getting pretty good, so you stop keeping a sketchbook... think again. People who stop being hungry stagnate and fade away.' This is what Marcelo taught me.
"He also told me 'You, your body and your soul, who you are, is a mix of anything you've ever put into your mind and body. Just like athletes don't eat junk food, artists who make a positive influence in the world don't take in junk media. Stay away from horror films. They'll only corrode you. Stay away from inappropriate violence and lusty sex. All this will keep you from saying anything good through your work, because there will be no good in you.' Marecelo is a really cool guy, by the way.

"He also told me his favorite artist is Van Gogh, because he painted things from real life, like sorrow and worry and toil, as well as joy and comfort. He wasn't the greatest painter ever, but he had heart. He stood out from many of his contemporaries, who painted very academic, idealized, conventional parlor paintings that were intended to be more like wall ornaments than statements on life.

"What else...

"Ah! Who you know in this business is important, but it's not everything. When you leave a studio/project, all you can REALLY take with you is your own skill, your own art. If you're a good person, and a good artist, you'll have friends who can help you in a bind.

"This is pretty much what I learned from my internship. You've sucked me dry. I've got nothing left."